Spy×Family Season 1 Part 1 BD/DVD

Undercover agent×Circle of relatives Season 1 Section 1 BD/DVD

Ask almost anyone with kids, and they’ll tell you: being a parent is hard. Children don’t come with instruction manuals, and you can’t predict exactly what they’ll do in a given situation, no matter how hard you try. That’s a reality that superspy Twilight is learning firsthand in Spy×Family, and in this case, the title really does say it all: crossing a career in espionage with family life is no easy task.

It’s also not one that Twilight ever thought he’d be attempting. Previously his spy missions for his totally-not-post-war-Germany country were much more standard fare in the James Bond sense – car chases, gunfights, romances, disguises…you know, the basics of spy fiction. But then, one day, he’s handed a mission known as Operation Strix. For this assignment, Twilight will have to get close to a particular man, one who is almost impossible to reach. The only potential angle is to enroll a child at the same school as his sons and have that child mirror his children’s paths. Since Twilight is a single, childless man, he will have to acquire a child and, because this is the equivalent of the 1960s, a wife as well. And this, as you might have guessed, is where everything goes sideways.

How do you throw a superspy off his game? Putting him in a situation where he lacks knowledge and can’t just learn about it from books. That’s what happens to Twilight, now known as Dr. Loid Forger, psychiatrist. Loid may be amazing at his regular work, but he stumbles out of the gate as a family man when he picks a seedy orphanage as the right place to acquire a child because the little girl he gets is a telepath, able to read minds – and she uses that skill to get him to adopt her in a scene that feels like a direct spoof of the musical Annie. Later his people skills fail him again when he proposes to Yor Briar to be his platonic wife because Yor’s sweet and flaky exterior conceals a career as the nation’s top assassin. Loid thus makes his task much more complicated than it ought to be right out of the gate – bad news for him but excellent news for us as consumers of this story. 

Spy×Family‘s greatest strength is the way that it uses this core of family to ground the spy caper. Early on, we learn that Loid had a rough childhood – the images suggest that he was orphaned during the in-world equivalent of World War Two. He says that he became a spy to prevent other children from suffering as he did, and that informs his relationship with Anya more than he realizes. Anya ended up at the orphanage (four times) because she was experimented on by the government, with the result being her psychic abilities. That puts her in a very similar situation to young Loid, and if he’s not always able to see that, he’s at least aware of it, which makes him put Anya first in a way that has nothing to do with his mission at all. Although Loid doesn’t want to see it, the main trajectory of the story is not him completing Operation Strix; it’s him becoming a father and husband. He’s rarely aware of why he does what he does for his daughter (his relationship with Yor isn’t particularly well developed in these episodes), but we can see that every time she grabs onto his leg or shows that she loves and trusts him, a piece of his heart melts.

Loid may be the nominal main character, but Anya is the beating heart of this story, and the further we go in these episodes, the clearer it becomes that the story knows it, too. Her role isn’t just that of daughter; it’s also to be the one person who, because of her ability, knows exactly what’s going on at all times…but she’s five years old, so she knows without truly understanding. She’s the catalyst for a lot of the plot’s events, and some of her best scenes are when she’s at Eden College (a play on the prestigious British school Eton College) interacting with her peers while trying to “help” her dad. Anya almost immediately forms an antagonistic relationship with the very boy Loid needs her to befriend, but what neither she nor her father realizes is that little Damian is crushing hard on her…and come to think of it, he’s not really aware of it, either. Their relationship is a very nice way to think of the story’s action: things are happening, but no one sees what they are.

It’s a formula that makes for some very good comedy. Anya’s face game is always on point (look for her trademark evil grin in the ending theme when Damian flashes on the screen), and Loid’s internal monologue juxtaposes beautifully with his actions. For a man who is adept at disguises and games, he’s always endearingly embarrassed when he plays pretend with Anya – episode five is a perfect example of it, as is the end of episode twelve, when he voices her new stuffed penguin, much to his chagrin. Yor doesn’t have quite as much to do, but she’s a successful combination of hyper-competent at one specific thing and clumsy at almost everything else, and it must be said that she does a great job as Anya’s mom. Her brother Yuri, who might kindly be called sister-obsessed, is also a lot more entertaining than he’d be in almost any other show. While he still embodies what’s become a hoary trope that doesn’t sit well with everyone, he isn’t obnoxious, and a lot of credit for that goes to both his English and Japanese voice actors.

Given the strength of the original Japanese cast, it wasn’t certain that the English dub would be able to hold a candle to it. Fortunately, it absolutely does. Probably the best performance across these episodes is Macy Anne Johnson
as Damian’s flunky Emile in the dodgeball episode; she nails his little-kid self-importance with a stuffy lisp that is pitch perfect. But the greater part of the English cast does a very good job, with Barry Yandell‘s elegant Henderson (his elegasms are amazing), Dallas Reid‘s Yuri, and Dani Chamber’s Becky all being standouts. The voice I was most concerned about going in was Anya’s because Atsumi Tanizaki does such a great job in Japanese, but I’m pleased to report that Megan Shipman‘s take on the character is also very well done. Alex Organ and Natalie Van Sistine as Loid and Yor also nail the parts.

Since this show looked good streaming, you can imagine how much better it looks on blu ray. Episode five stands out with its extended action sequences; you can see every fold in Loid’s clothing move with his body. The clarity of background faces during school scenes (or, okay, any scene with Anya) also makes this a delight to view, and Yor’s physical prowess comes across clearly and cleanly. Extras are a discussion at Anime Expo in 2022 with the English cast and two Japanese cast interviews, and both are interesting enough to merit watching. It’s also nice (if less striking) that the textless ending theme is included because it allows us to see the details of the animation without obstruction or distraction.

If you missed Spy×Family when it first streamed, now is your chance to see it in all its glory. Even if you saw the streams, it looks good enough here to merit owning, and having seen every episode three times now (and read the manga), I can also say that this has a lot of rewatch value. Every popular or hyped show doesn’t always live up to people’s expectations or enthusiasm, but this one does. It’s funny with a warm, gooey center and very much worth your time.

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